I hear the key in the door knob, and I immediately brace myself for the intrusion. I know what is coming. Greg enters dumping the architectural plans he’s reviewing, his electronics, and other paraphernalia on our bar top. Like clockwork, he immediately scoops me up for a long embrace. He hugs me like a man hugs a woman. Our connection is so much about these daily moments, because he is a man of few words. Though a rather ordinary exchange, this rendezvous speaks volumes.
It’s a picture of what I need more of in my life, of time and space to stop, to just breathe, to feel I am not alone in this fight called life and God’s purpose. Without his insistence, I would never give up the time to enjoy a hug. Life becomes rote. I am all about what I have to get done, namely dinner, dishes and a general run through before I can pull out my book or laptop. I am about filling a 24 hour day with way more activity than any sane person should consider. By this time in the evening, I have spent many hours actively listening. It’s my calling. Truly, I am not complaining. But the reality is as I stand in my kitchen chopping away, and I am emotionally “touched” out. This is what Greg faces as he opens the door and hugs away.
“Denise, take a minute!” demanding this of me and in the midst of our swaying. I know this is his time.
I lay down my knife and try to become present. I go rather limp in the tightness of his embrace, knowing he is waiting to take the weight of my day if I will let him.
“Come on…surely that is long enough.” I squirm a bit and show protest, but he persists.
“No, never. Just let me hold you.” Greg’s grasp is not releasing.
“What is this about? Is everything ok?”
“Same overloaded day, what about you?”
“Yep, same here.”
Our pattern since empty nesting is to eat together, and then retire. I to the spare room where I sit with my laptop and coffee, pecking out words on my latest piece, scanning social media, or reading. Soon, I am dozing due to my early rising and the emotional intensity of my day. The door is ajar and Greg is in his comfy chair reading his tablet and listening to a show for background noise.
We speak back and forth until I fall asleep. Graciously, he will close the door until he goes to bed. The other night he told me he came in to just watch me sleep.
“Why? Was I drooling?”
“No. You were perfect and for once quiet and still. Can’t I just look at you.”
“It’s just a little creepy to me.” Though in my heart I value his love for me. He makes me vulnerable and while I am safe, at times, I’d rather hide.
“All of the thoughts were good. Promise.”
Our house reno is unfinished. The projects never end. As I sit on this night typing away, a beautiful shiplap spans three fourths of the wall next to me, waiting on another weekend for Greg to plane more reclaimed wood.
Living with these stages of renovation has broken me down in ways. What I thought I needed to make my life work, I find now is peripheral. A life unencumbered by things is freedom. Don’t think I have arrived, I continually sit in this process. From time to time, the pressure builds for me and Greg arrives home on these nights to the brunt of my frustration. His ritual hug is met with his least favorite statement.
My rant usually begins, “I am done. I need a clean closet, an organized pantry, and central air. The dust is constant and August heat stifling. Are you listening?”
He comes back with something like, “I don’t like it when you say “done” Denise. I know it’s taken forever. Are you “done” with me? Do I get lumped in with the house?”
“Well, I guess I’ll keep you.” I crack a smile. “I guess I am saying let’s ditch the house, but I’d want you to come with me.”
“And just where would we go?” We both know we aren’t going anywhere. This is me venting to release the pressure of my typical stressors.
We both laugh and try to come to terms with where we are standing. It is nearly 2/3 complete with the worst behind us. For this I can be thankful. A project we thought would take a year is now stretching into five plus. And the stretching has reached to us.
A few weeks ago, Greg’s oldest brother buried his wife of 34 years. She had a terminal illness that she fought for more than a decade, but time ran out. She lay in a hospital bed with all her immediate family around her bed and the extended around the outside perimeter. We watched as she struggled for her last breaths, knowing that she would fly away soon. We came face to face with our own humanity that afternoon. I couldn’t help but remember how she fought to hold onto life as long as she could.
Another sister-in-law stepped in and asked me to pray with her to usher our dear family member into heaven. Like a trumpet, she prayed sounding a commanding song to summons the angels to carry her to heaven. Then she looked to me. My prayer was a quiet etude of emotion, filled with a pleading to God for mercy, acknowledging this whisper of life would be bringing us along shortly. I thought of her final year, knowing her time was short, she drank in everyday with her children and grandchildren as if they were her last. We recently vacationed with her, and I was inspired as she made the most of her moments.
Her home going adjusted my attitude in my current lot here. I want to live in the moments in my unfinished house and stop wishing it all away. Life is short and each day a gift because the thread between this life and the next is easily cut. So, I’ll take the dust and undone. I know it will one day be done. And I’ll try to be present in the ritual of an evening hug and be thankful for the love that surrounds me.